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Antsiranana to Antalaha - The Vanilla Coast

map Antalaha

     © University of Texas

Vohemar  |   Sambava  |   Antalaha


© Madagascar Travel Guide
Vohemar, also known as Iharana,  is a pleasant beach resort town. Cyclone Gafilo caused a fair amount of damage here in 2004. The east coast, north of the peninsula "Masoala" is, despite the abundance of agricultural resources (vanilla, coffee, cloves), very isolated. The terrestrial communications with the rest of the island are limited to the single runway Ambilobe linking the Vohemar and Sambava, which is unfortunately impassable during the rainy season. This vast area is currently managed by the Company SIRAMA which produces nearly 40 000 tonnes of sugar. But Vohemar is a mecca for archaeological research too: 1941 a cemetery containing 500 graves dating from the thirteenth century has been discovered here (for visiting the archaeological site you require a special permission).

What to see

  • The green lake or lake Andronotsara

This lake, 7 Km South of Vohémar, owes its name to a microscopic alga. When light reflects on the surface and hits the algae, a green colour effect is produced. The phenomenon varies depending on weather and time. Thus, the coloration is very clear during the morning and fades when the sun is at its zenith. When the colour of water darkens, it is a sign of displeasure of the ancestors. In order to avoid disgrace, a sacrifice must be made. Foreigners are allowed under certain conditions. It is "fady" to drink water with the hands, bringing pork meat or crossing the lake by boat.

Where to sleep (Hotels in alphabetical order, prices from 2013)

Hotel Galaxy
Lot A 352 Andranomasikely 1
Phone: +261 32 02 507 10 - 261 34 03 579 29
e-mail: hotelgalaxyvohemar@yahoo.fr
6 pleasant and spacious rooms and bungalows built in the traditional local style. The staff is very friendly and the atmosphere ideal to relax. Good restaurant and reasonable prices (cheaper than Sol y Mar and La Baie d’Iharana). Very good value!

Hotel la Floride
Rue principale
Phone: + 261 32 04 590 68
5 simple rooms with common facilities. There is also a small restaurant. Good place for budget travellers.

La Baie d’Iharana
Mobile: + 261 (0)32 07 131 46
e-mail: claudetteahtoym@yahoo.fr  mcmavoh@moov.mg
Web: www.normada.com/iharana
16 large and comfortable rooms with AC and hot water, some with sea views, located directly on the beach and not far from town. Beautiful tropical garden, terrace and huge dining room with views of the spectacular bay. The restaurant serves delicious european, chinese  and malagasy food. Several activities and excursions arranged (Green lake, Daraina Reserve, fishing, boat trip, etc.). Rent of 4x4 possible.
Double room from 73,000 to 94,000 Ar depending on the views, twin room for 95,000 Ar

Le Lagon Bleu
Rue principale
Phone: 32 04 396 46
Basic bungalows direct on the beach. Nice atmosphere, friendly staff and beautiful location. Restaurant serves cheap meals.

Sol y Mar
Phone : 88 063 56
e-mail: solymar-hotel.vohemar@blueline.mg
Web: http://hotelsolymar-vohemar.ifrance.com
13 comfortable bungalows ( private/shared toilet, hot/cold water) and 4 rooms with all facilities and TV on a beautiful location by the sea ( 1km from town), ideal to relax. Really friendly atmosphere and excellent meals! Several sea activities (fishing, windsurf, boat rent), excursions and transfers organised. Recommended!
Double room 34 €, double bungalow from 18 to 37 € depending on the facilities


 The easiest way to get to Vohemar is flying to Sambava and from there take a taxi-brousse  (between two and four hours journey). During the rainy season the road is impracticable.

 If you are travelling from Antsiranana towards South this trip may be quite an experience.  Normally a taxi-brousse needs around 12 hours, depending on the road condition (it is actually  pretty bad in some places). The best option is hiring a car, which will made the trip some hours  shorter and will allow you to make some stops to enjoy the landscape!

 There is another option for the toughest travellers: it is possible to handle with a merchant ship  carrying vanilla from Antsiranana. It is not the most comfortable option but you will sail along  the coast, enjoying unexplored coral reefs, paradisiacal tropical islands and empty strands,  and for sure you will never forget this trip!



Sambava is a small town on the east coast. People live peacefully in this settlement cut out of the forest that looks as if fills in the gaps between the thickly-growing trees. The establishment of the culture of vanilla from the beginning of the century, and that of coffee, then contributed to the economic development of the city, which is now considered to be one of the richest towns of Madagascar. In general, there are hardly any tourists in this city. The town has an empty and wave-filled beach with white sand, palm trees, and green water (generally too strong to go swimming) and is quiet and pleasant but extraordinary rainy! Be equipped accordingly.

What to see

  • Vanilla plantations

This is always a rewarding visit. You can visit the plantation, as well as a workshop where visitors are introduced into the vanilla processing. Finally, a stop in a rum distillery will finish the walk with a drink.  

  • River descents

Rivers Lokoho. Bemarivo, Ratsianarana and Sambavason are recommendable for fans of inland waterways.

  • Lakes

Antohomaro and Andamonty lakes are accessible less than 5 minutes south of the city by car.

  • Forests

A luxuriant vegetation, numerous rivers, orchids, high rocky mountains overlooking the forest limit the external boundaries of Sambava. We can only recommend the extraordinary beautiful nature reserve of Marojejy, where it is possible to hike onto the summit of the Maromonkotro mountain (2133 m), which offers an unforgettable view onto the tropical forests of Eastern Madagascar.

  • Marojejy National Park 

See under Marojejy National Park

 Where to sleep (Hotels in alphabetical order, prices from 2013)

  Chez l’Ambassadeur
  Phone: 032 02 927 45
  Basic but comfortable rooms, nice meals and friendly atmosphere. Good prices, ideal for           backpackers!

Phone: 032 02 466 21
15 simple rooms with private bathrooms, cold water and a big terrace direct in town centre and by the beach. You can use the kitchen for cooking your own meals!
Price for a double room from 25,000 Ar.

Hotel Canntonnais
8 comfortable rooms not far from beach, nice views and tasty meals. Reasonable prices, depending on the facilities (18,000 to 33,000 Ar)

Hôtel Carrefour
Phone:  + 261 20 88 920 60 
Mail: hotelcarrefour@yahoo.fr
Brand new renovated hotel with 38 rooms located in the city centre next to the beach. All the rooms have private facilities and hot water, some AC, fridge and TV. There is also a nice restaurant.
Price for a double room from 22 to 30 €

Hôtel Melrose
Phone: 33 14 574 79 / 33 12 939 41 / 32 04 572 14 / 32 07 146 10
6 pleasant rooms in a nice location by the sea shore, all with private facilities and hot water, some with AC. Only breakfast served.
Price for a double room from 25,000 Ar

Hôtel Noumeá
Phone: 032 02 635 86
8 welcoming and comfortable rooms with private facilities not far from the beach.
Price for a double room 27,000 or 30,000 Ar with TV.

Hôtel Paradise
Phone: 20 88 922 97 / 32 40 126 89
17 large and well furnished rooms, with fan but without mosquito nets. All rooms have private bath but only the most expensive ones have hot water. There is a restaurant and a disco at weekends!
Price for a room from 34,000 Ar.

Las Palmas
Phone: + 261 20 88 920 87 / 32 40 073 72
e-mail: laspalmas.hotel@gmail.com
6 charming bungalows and 2 rooms direct on the beach in a beautiful setting, all of them are well equipped, comfortable and clean, with hot water, private bath and TV. Excursions to National Park, vanilla plantation and airport transfers offered.
Price for a bungalow from 18 to 21 €, depending on fan or AC, room with AC for 25 €

Mimi Hotel
Phone: + 261 (0)32 07 61 028
Mail: mimi.hotel.resto@gmail.com
Web: http://mimi-hotel.marojejy.com
11 comfortable and impeccable rooms with private facilities, hot water and a small terrace. from 14 € for two. The restaurant serves good local and chinese specialities. Good choice!

Orchidea Beach II
Phone: + 261 20 88 923 24 / (0)32 04 383 77
It is possibly the best hotel in town: well located next to city centre, direct on the beach, with a beautiful garden and a charming atmosphere. There are two beachfront bungalows and 8 comfortable, large, clean and welcoming rooms with AC and hot water. The restaurant serves tasty and large meals. Recommended!
Bungalow for 17 €, room for 33 €

 Where to eat

The best place to eat is surely Orchidea Beach II. Other cheaper options are:

Bar Ivahola
Small and familiar place, traditional food served in a friendly atmosphere where you can meet local people.

La Dynastie
Chinese and local specialities in a small local in city centre. Very good meals and friendly staff. Recommended!

Chez Coco Vanille
Simple and well maintained, located on the way to the airport. Tasty and inexpensive food.

Etoile Rouge
Little and clean restaurant located behind Orchidea Beach Hotel II. Very good oriental and Malagasy dishes served.


There are several flights a week with Air Madagascar connecting Sambava with Tana, Maroantsetra, Toamasina and Antsiranana. The airport is located just about 2 km. south from the city centre, so you can just walk or take a taxi for a low price.

Practical guide


52, rue du Commerce
Phone: 88 920 42

BFV Société Générale
Avenue de l`Hôpital
Phone: 88 920 42
Visa accepted, Western Union transfers possible

On the corner Guinete / Sirama
Phone: 88 921 06

Rue du Commerce
Phone: 88 920 94


There is a hospital and two main pharmacies opened 24 hours a day.


There are some Cybercafes in the town centre, where is possible to print, photocopy and send a fax.


Located on the North East coast of Madagascar, Antalaha has been a prosperous little town since the late 1900's when vanilla was introduced. It is linked by a good road to Sambava (80 kms north) or by air from the capital and other northern cities. It can also be reached on foot with a 5-day hike north from Maroantsetra across the Masoala Peninsula. The town's side streets are filled with scurrying workers who bring out the beans on huge mesh trays to dry in the sun and then rush them inside again before the frequent afternoon storms.

Vanilla Antalaha
  Vanilla beans  © Madagascar Travel Guide
Vanilla is of great importance to the local economy. Vanilla plants, which need to grow coiled around trees, were introduced to Madagascar in the mid 1800's. They were transplanted from Mexico, where there are birds and bees that will do Mr. Rasolomonina's task. But here there are none of the right kind. 

And though Madagascar has produced most of the world's vanilla over the last century, the pollination is still done by hand. A cash crop that once brought prices of nearly $40 a pound, vanilla was for a long time this impoverished island's own little pot of gold. It was Madagascar's second biggest export crop, behind coffee. Experts say the vanilla industry is almost as Byzantine and secretive as the diamond industry. Like diamonds, vanilla -- once it is cured and dried -- can be stored for up to 10 years before it is put on the market.

What to see

You can climb onto a nipple hill on the west of the city to enjoy a beautiful sight. Ontop of the hill there is the weather station.

The coastline lined with luxury villas, some of which have retained their "colonial style", invites to a walk. Swimming is possible in the city lagoon. Workshops braiding vanilla deserve a visit. If you are interested in vanilla, or if you want to know more, this is the place where you will learn the most. You will be introduced through the various phases of production,  plantation and even confection of products like boots by expertise craftsmen.

Once a year the so called athletic games of the vanilla (shortly named “Java”) take place before the vanilla harvest. If your trip coincides with the festivities, you can attend a series of sporting events.

Of course you can take advantage of your visit to Antalaha for visiting one of the traditional markets held in the nearby villages. Colourful markets are held on Thursday at Tanambao and on Tuesday in Ankoalabe. The vanilla, coffee, baskets, mats, straw hats, carved stones, carved wooden craft are sold side by side with all the seasonal fruits of the region.

  • Cap Est

The most eastern location on the island is also a historic site associated with certain locations in Europe. The road that leads there is very beautiful, it would do well to stop off in plantations vanilla to learn more about the culture of this orchid.

  • Lake Ampahana

A 20 km north on the road to Sambava, this lake is a paradise for water friends. There are also crocodiles. From September to December, traditional ceremonies take place.

  • Park Andranoanala

You find information about this coastal forest on the section of Masoala National Park

Where to sleep (Hotels in alphabetical order, prices from 2013)

Budget accommodations

Hôtel Clauphine
Lot T34A, rue de Marseille
Phone: 32 02 212 13
Simple accommodation with cold water and shared bath. Inexpensive!

Hôtel du Centre
Rue de Lille
Phone : 32 04 654 08
Central location, 6 basic rooms with shared facilities. Good choice for low budget travellers.

Hôtel Fanantenana
Lot 26A, rue de Calais, Tanambao
Phone: 32 04 333 81
8 basic and clean rooms with private shower (cold water) and shared toilets.

Hôtel La Liane
Lot K47, rue de Lille,Ville basse
Phone : 32 04 654 33
Simple but comfortable rooms, shared facilities. Some rooms with fan and hot water.
Price from 14,000 Ar to 20,000 Ar. Good value!

Hôtel Riviera
Rue du village Makoa, Ankoalabe
Phone : 32 07 536 04
11 simple and welcoming rooms with shared facilities from 13,000 Ar.

Middle class 

Hôtel Atlantis
Lot RHA73, Ambalahoraka, Antsonasona
Phone: 32 02 397 29
15 rooms with private facilities and hot water, some with TV and fan. The restaurant serves breakfast and some meals.
Price for a room from 22,000 Ar 

Hôtel Florida
Lot K36A, rue de Tananarive, Tanambao
Phone: 20 88 951 25 / 32 02 375 72
12 comfortable and well furnished rooms, some with AC and hot water.
Price for a double room from 23,000 to 50,000 Ar

Hôtel Restaurant Eden
Mandalovahely,Route de l'aéroport
Phone: 32 04 816 78
14 welcoming, comfortable and clean rooms and bungalows with private facilities and hot water, not far from beach. There is a restaurant and a night club on Saturdays as well!

Hôtel Restaurant Le Cocotier
BP 61, Antalaha, Ville basse
Phone : 32 04 864 25 / 32 04 297 30
40 comfortable rooms not far from the beach from 14,000 to 25,000 Ar. Some rooms have shower, some private bath and hot water. The restaurant is average. Transfers to airport organised.

Hôtel Restaurant Vitasoa
Lot M30, rue du Havre, Ville basse
Phone : +261 (0)32 07 520 90 
Mail: cfjm@blueline.mg
8 rooms and 3 bungalows, all with private facilities, hot water, mosquito nets and fan. Nice location direct by the beach. The restaurant serves excellent food. Very good value, recommended!

Nanie Hôtel et Restaurant
Ville basse
Phone: 32 04 591 48 / 32 41 287 66
e-mail: naniehotel@yahoo.fr
4  rooms and 6 bungalows, all pleasant and comfortable, with private facilities and hot water. The location is ideal, next to the town harbour and on the seafront. Good restaurant. Recommended!
Double bungalow 25,000 Ar, familiar bungalow 30,000 Ar

High end

Hôtel Hazovola (former Palissandre)
2, rue de la Mer, Ville basse
Phone: + 261 (0)32 05 000 65
22 high standard rooms with all comforts, private terrace, fridge, TV and safe. Beautiful location by the sea and helpful staff. Many activities and car rental offered.
Double room from 25 € with fan, 30 € with AC

Hôtel Restaurant Océan Momo
BP 31, Ankoalabe
Phone:+ 261 (0)32 02 340 69
e-mail: oceanmomo@blueline.mg ; momo@moov.mg
Web : www.ocean-momo.com
20 double and 10 familiar high-standard bungalows equipped with all comforts and located direct on the sea shore surrounded by a beautiful tropical garden. There restaurant serves delicious meals (specially seafood!) and cocktails. Several excursions and activities as well as car rent offered. It is possibly the best place to stay in all town.
Double bungalow from 28 to 37 € (fan or AC), familiar from 40 to 65 € (3 to 5 people)


Air Madagascar flies several times weekly between Antalaha and Tana, Tamatave, Sambava and Maroantsetra. The airport is situated about 10 km. from town, so it is necessary to take a taxi (accord the price before getting in!) or the taxi-brousse.
From Antalaha it is possible to drive north towards Sambava and south to Cap East with taxi-brousse during the dry season.

Although there are currently no passenger boat routes going trough Antalaha, there are regular cargo boats sailing north (Sambava, Vohemar and Antsiranana) and south ( Cap East, Maroantsetra, Sainte Marie and Toamasina), which use to carry adventurous travellers.